Cool (and maybe free) stuff!

I find it hard to resist pen projects on Kickstarter, and have had generally very good experiences. Even though I’ve built up quite the supply of “Kickstarted” writing utensils, a couple of recent projects caught my eye AND my pledge. The project creators haven’t asked for a plug—I just wanted to share some cool stuff and a couple of giveaway opportunities.

Uncapped InTuition
Previously backed InTuition Pen/Stylus

I wrote about the InTuition Pen/Stylus back in February, and continue to enjoy the look, feel, and performance of that pen. Now I see that Tom of e4 Labs has launched a companion project—the InTuition Pencil. More carbon fiber, more goodness. What I like about this project is that there are only a couple of backing tiers, one at $39 for one pencil (0.5, 0.7, or 0.9 mm lead size) and $110 for all three lead sizes. Only 300 rewards are available (now down to 224, at the time of this writing) for the single pencil while just 50 rewards (currently down to 43) are available for the trio of pencils. By capping the number of rewards at each level, Tom won’t suddenly be faced with an avalanche of orders that make his proposed timeline impossible to meet. Tom delivered a great product the last time and I have no reason to believe that this pencil project will be any different. I’m already looking forward to my 0.7 mm version. The funding period ends January 4th, 2014, and the project is currently about 34% funded. Let’s make it happen!

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Another Kickstarter project that made my eyes POP is the The Apollo Technical Pan and Drafting Scale by Pranay and Paul. Do I do any drafting? Heck no. Does that matter to me? Not at all. This thing is just so awesome looking that even my non-pen loving husband is excited. JetPens recently interviewed Pranay and Paul AND announced a JetPens/Apollo Pen giveaway contest. The grand prize is a JetPens themed Tri-Scale set with three pens, while one runner-up will receive a single Apollo pen.

Check out their interview HERE.

Enter the giveaway HERE. The contest ends December 12th.

This Kickstarter project has six more days to go, and is almost 400% funded, so this one is a definite go. Can’t wait.

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The folks at Pen Chalet, a new-to-me online pen retailer, are currently running their own giveaway for  $50, $25, and $10 dollar gift certificates. Who couldn’t use a little help with holiday spending, right? I spent some time browsing their site the other night, while entering the contest, and like what I see selection-wise AND price-wise. Definitely worth a look and an entry. A winner will be drawn on December 15th. Fingers crossed!

Check out their contest HERE.

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UPDATE: Here’s one more giveaway I JUST found— The FPGeeks are giving away a set of six Levenger inks and the True Writer Silver Anniversary Fountain Pen. What a sweet haul! Enter for those goodies HERE. This contest closes on January 6, 2014. Winning this would definitely make for a happy new year.

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Have a great weekend! I plan to spend a little time with some friends, then hunker down with some pens. Bliss.

Flawed and Wonderful: Parker Vacumatic in Azure Blue

Parker Vacumatic Azure Blue

When I was at the DC Pen Show, I found myself completely overwhelmed and intimidated by the stunning array of vintage pens. I shied away from exploring them because I felt like I needed to know [much] more to be able to recognize an acceptable pen at a good price. Sarj Minhas has a staggering vintage collection (so nice that it paralyzed me, both physically and verbally). I was especially blown away by his “Ripley” Vacumatic— simply stunning— with a hefty price tag that I’m sure is well worth it. So, while in DC, I stuck to moderns and remain very pleased with those purchases.

Vacumatic striations

But gosh darn, those Vacumatics speak to me. And wouldn’t you know it— one popped up for sale on Dan Smith’s site. I slobbered over it, then had a bit of a twitter conversation with Dan before deciding to go for it. During this exchange, Dan asked me, “What is it about the Vacumatics that you like?” I quickly answered, “The stripey bits.” It really is that simple— I love the look of the striations (aka stripey bits). And at $65, I knew this would be a good “starter” Vacumatic.

Vacumatic with Duofold nib

Going in, I was well aware that there are a few things wrong with the pen— and they’re undoubtedly big things if you’re a collector. The nib is a Parker Duofold, which is the wrong nib for this pen. The barrel is badly ambered so that it’s not at all translucent. I’m not able to judge the ink level by looking at the barrel— it just stops writing. And I may or may not be having some filling issues (TBD; working with Anderson Pens on this…pretty sure it’s just me being impatient when filling).

Vacumatic imprint

Despite all of this, I love this pen. LOVE. It puts down a perfectly wet, smooth, medium line— pure fun to write with. The barrel imprint is crisp and completely readable. The cap and clip are in great shape. Amazing, really, for a pen that was made in 1945. And those striations. Yeah, they’re what really got me.

Vacumatic barrel

Myke Hurley recently said, on Episode 75 of “The Pen Addict” podcast, that he overheard someone at the London Pen Show describe a Vacumatic as looking like the lit windows in a skyscraper at night. I SO agree with this description. (I was driving at the time I heard this, but nodded and laughed a little because I’d been thinking the exact same thing.)

Blind cap & vac

The filling system is very easy to use, but as I said, requires a bit of patience in that, according to Brian Anderson, one needs to pause at the bottom of the plunger’s downstroke, as well as at the top, for a second or two. I’m not sure that I’ve been doing that so my fills may have been a little short. Next time, I’ll take my time.

Uncapped Vacumatic

Like so many pen lovers, I’ve been on the elusive hunt for the “perfect pen,” as if such a thing exists. Does perfect mean that it has to be expensive or super smoooooooth or drop-dead gorgeous, or does it just have to fit our hand or our tastes or our writing style? Heck if I know. I’m pretty sure, though, that “perfect” is a moving target. And maybe (undoubtedly) “perfect” is overrated.

Parker Vacumatic clip

Our jobs/partners/kids/pets/churches/schools/movies/books/art are all imperfect— well-marbled with flaws along with the good stuff. And yet we love it all. We love our messy, sticky lives. This pen is the same— flawed, and yet still wonderful.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

++++++++++++++++
Notes:

  • My Parker Vacumatic is currently inked with Pilot’s Iroshizuku tsuki-yo.
  • The Sassafras pen case prototype by Nock Co. provided the colorful backdrop for a number of these photos, and is where I’ve been storing this Vacumatic.  I’ve been carrying the Sassafras case with me EVERYWHERE and it looks as fresh as it did on day one.  Check out Nock Co.’s project on Kickstarter.
  • That Ripley Vacumatic? Unforgettable.

It’s Quality: RETRAKT by Karas Kustoms

Note: Karas Kustoms provided me with a pre-production prototype of their newest pen, the RETRAKT (copper version), for evaluation and play. All other Karas Kustoms pens mentioned/shown in this review were purchased by myself. I’m obviously a fan, but I promise to tell it like it is. And though I received this prototype free of charge, I’m also a backer.

Retrakt in package
The complete package

The pen body arrived, nicely packaged, with a number of little doo-dads. There’s a spring, a spacer (for Parker-compatible refills), a piece of tubing to create your own custom spacers, a package insert that explains everything and offers a few Karas Kustoms words of wisdom. (“Only use your RETRAKT for good, never for evil, as this may void the warranty and make you much less cool as a person.”)

Funny story…when I unpacked the pen, I slipped the spring from the packet over my Pilot G2 refill, inserted it into the pen body, reassembled the pen, and clicked the knock mechanism. Hrrrmmmm. The mechanism wouldn’t engage. What the…??? After a little futzing around, I discovered that there was ALREADY a spring for use with a G2 refill installed in the pen, so I had actually tried to engage the mechanism with TWO springs in place. Oops. Once the correct spring was used on its own, the knock worked like a charm. (When I have one of these mental lapses with my computer at work, my boss calls it a “PICNIC” issue…Problem In Chair, Not In Computer. So I guess what I had here was a PICNIP issue…Problem In Chair, Not In Pen. Which would make sense if “picnip” was a word.)

So to summarize…
Pilot G2 set-up
Use the larger/looser spring with a Pilot G2 refill

and…
Parker-compatible refill
Use the smaller/tighter spring and spacer with Parker-compatible refills

With that bit of business out of the way, let’s get to the pen itself.

Copper Retrakt

The RETRAKT is a custom-machined pen body (refill not included) available in anodized aluminum, and hand-finished/raw brass and copper. I have the copper version, and it is a looker. Great finish, unique color that will develop an antiquey patina (AND it smells like pennies). It is ALSO quite heavy, weighing in at about 63 grams (2.25 ounces)…as measured on the same scale that I use to weigh spaghetti (so take those weights with a grain of salt). The copper RETRAKT certainly is a SOLID PEN. For all of its weight, I don’t find it unwieldy to write with. Granted, I haven’t written pages and pages in one sitting, but I’ve been using the RETRAKT to make notes for this review and I’m none the worse for wear. The weight seems to be distributed in such a way that the pen sits solidly in the cusp of my hand and doesn’t list forward or backward. Should you desire something less weighty, consider the aluminum version. But keep in mind that the copper looks really cool, AND exhibits anti-bacterial properties. (It’s true! Google it!) The RETRAKT looks great and it’s good for you!

Knurling
Karas knurling

As with the Render K, a bit of knurling adds interest to the look of the pen. Some girls go crazy over nail polish and purses. Not my thing. But show me some KNURLING, and you’ve won me over. Can’t explain it. Maybe genetics?! (Does “love of knurling” run in families?)

Karas clip
Karas clip

The RETRAKT sports the iconic stainless steel Karas Kustoms clip, the same one you’ll find on both the Render K and the Bolt. It’s super sturdy and attached to the knurled section of the pen via two set screws. I regularly slip one of my other Karas pens into a jeans pocket and have never had a issue with the clip not doing its job.

Retrakt knock

Let’s get to what makes the RETRAKT retract. Tricked out with a German-made, all metal knock, the retractable mechanism engages smoothly and quietly. Yes, quietly. Using a ball-bearing and groove system, rather than a cam, makes the difference. The knock itself is rock solid…no wiggling or wishy-washiness…and will surely survive my compulsive pen clicking habit. And because the pen is retractable, there’s no cap to post or set on your desk. Retrakt. Write. Retrakt.

Retrakt's knock mechanism
Up close and personal with the knock mechanism

Karas pen family
The Karas Kustoms line: Render K (aluminum), Render K (orange aluminum), Bolt (aluminum), Retrakt (copper)

Another feature to note is something that you DON’T see…branding. Their pens are sleek and industrial and YOURS. You’re not using and carrying a billboard for the company. Karas Kustoms design aesthetic and build quality speak for themselves, without the pens saying a single word. So clean, so cool.

I’ve been a fan of Karas Kustoms since their first Kickstarter project, the Render K. Backing their second project, The Bolt, was a no-brainer. Both experiences set the bar high for all other Kickstarter projects. With frequent updates and mesmerizing production videos, they bring their backers along for the ride, so you’re never in the dark wondering where a project stands. I was impressed then, and I remain impressed with this latest addition to the Karas Kustoms pen family.

The RETRAKT. “It’s Quality, Bro!”

It's Quality, Bro!

Intrigued? Want to know more? Check out the RETRAKT Kickstarter page HERE. Levels start at just $30 for the EARLY BIRD aluminum offering (while they last!) all the way up to $250 for an on-site visit to the Karas Kustoms shop, complete with lunch and an aluminum RETRAKT.

The Bolt: A Machined Bolt Action Pen

The Bolt
The Bolt, by KarasKustoms

Last week was a good pen week, and one of the pens that made it so was The Bolt, by KarasKustoms. I backed their first pen project, the Render K, and was so pleased with that pen that it was a no-brainer to back this project.

KarasKustoms sets the bar pretty high when it comes to Kickstarter projects. They provide regular updates that often contain videos of the machining process. (I’m oddly fascinated by these glimpses of the birth of a pen.) The shop truly brings you along for the ride and provides a very transparent experience. I haven’t backed a project that’s done it any better.

Like the Render-K, the Bolt is available in both aluminum and brass. I chose aluminum, as I did for their first project, and am again pleased with my choice. The pen has heft but is not heavy. The weight is just perfect for me. The pen measures 5.5″ long and 0.45″ in diameter, and feels great in hand. I’d consider it well-balanced and comfortable.

Bolt action
Bolt action

Unlike the Render-K, this pen is retractable, and that’s where things get particularly cool. To extend the writing tip, you push down on the knock, as you would for any other retractable. But THEN, use your thumb to twist the knock to the side so that the bolt continues to travel in the machined slot, and the extended writing tip is locked into place. (At first this action took two fingers, but now that things have loosened up, I can do the whole thing with just my thumb.) I don’t know why this is fun, but it is. It is.

Hardware
Sturdy, sturdy clip

The pen comes with stainless steel hardware, AND an Allen wrench so that you can tighten the clip’s screws, if need be. (Have I mentioned that these guys have an eye for detail?) The clip on my pen hasn’t budged, but it’s nice to know that I can tighten it up if I have to.

0.5 mm Moleskine gel refill
Writing sample with the 0.5 mm Moleskine gel refill

While the pen DOES comes with the Allen wrench, it DOES NOT come with a refill. Why’s that? Well…because the body is able to accept a number of refill options (generally in the Parker-style format), Karas Kustoms chooses to leave the choice of refill up to the customer, rather than providing refills that users may toss. That’s fine for me, and I was well-stocked with my Parker-style refill of choice- the Moleskine 0.5 mm gel refill. Within minutes of unpacking the pen, I popped in the refill and was off and running. (A few folks missed this detail in the project’s documentation, and were puzzled/angry. This lack of refill is the same as with the Render K, AND is clearly stated, so I wasn’t caught off guard.)

Here’s a list of some of the refills that are compatible with The Bolt:

Faber-Castell Ballpoint Pen Refill
Fisher Space Pen Refill, PR Series- Colors (Bold, Medium, Fine)
Foray (Office Depot) Ballpoint Refill for Parker (Medium)
Monteverde Ceramic Gel Refill (Broad)
Monteverde Needle Point Refill (Fine)
Monteverde Soft Roll- Colored inks (Medium)
Monteverde Soft Roll- (Superbroad, Medium, Ultrafine)
OHTO Needlepoint Ballpoint Pen Refill PS-807NP
OHTO PS-205NP Extra-Fine 0.5mm Ballpoint Pen Refill
Parafernalia Ballpoint Pen Refill NO LOGO
Parker Ballpoint Pen Refill (Broad, Medium, Fine)
Parker GEL Ballpoint Pen Refill (Medium)
Parker Quinkflow Ballpoint Pen Refill (Medium, Fine)
Pelikan Giant Ballpoint Pen Refill 337 (Broad, Fine, Medium)
Pentel KFLT8 Ballpoint Pen Refill
Schmidt 9000M EasyFlow Pen Refill
Schmidt P8900 Super Bowl Refill (Fine)
Schmidt P900 B Ballpoint Pen Refill (Broad, Medium, Fine)
Schmidt P950M Megaline Pressurized Ballpoint Pen Refill (Medium)
Schneider Express 735 Pen Refill (Broad, Medium, Fine)
Schneider Slider 755 Pen Refill (Extra-Broad, Medium)
Stabilo Ballpoint Refill
Tombow BR-ZLM Ballpoint Pen Refill
Visconti Ballpoint Pen Refill AA49 1.4 (Broad)
Visconti Gel Refill (Broad, Medium, Fine)

Quite the list, eh?!

The Bolt

I have nothing but praise for the team at KarasKustoms. The Bolt is solidly made, and sports clean lines and a cool industrial look. And that bolt mechanism? It’s irresistible.

Keep ‘em coming, KarasKustoms. Keep ‘em coming.

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Want your own Bolt? Though the Kickstarter project has ended, the pen is now available via the KarasKustoms website. Check out all of their cool products by clicking here.

I was not compensated in any way for this review. I’m just a fan, and wanted to spread the word about this interesting pen and the quality workmanship.

WANDerful: InTuition Pen/Stylus (via Kickstarter)

InTuition Pen/Stylus
Magic wand, no?!

It’s been a tricky week already. One of our dogs is feeling poorly, and oddball stuff keeps cropping up at work. Oh, how I wish I had a magic wand to make it all better. Oh wait…I do!

The InTuition Pen/Stylus, a Kickstarter project by e4 Labs, arrived last week, overdue by only about a week. In contrast to the project that I wrote about last week, this one has been a great experience for the backers. Updates were frequent and full of pictures. Even when there was a bit of an issue, we were kept fully informed. You can’t ask for much more than that.

The first thing I noticed is that the pen resembles a magic wand. I haven’t managed to pull a rabbit out of a hat, but I must admit that I have been known to wave it around a bit, hoping to cast a spell or two. The straight lines of the carbon fiber body and titanium cap make that action impossible to resist. Even though I haven’t conjured up any real magic, I’m transformed into a marvelously relaxed worker when I’m using the InTuition. That counts as a “trick,” doesn’t it?

It's a pen! It's a stylus!
It’s a pen! It’s a stylus!

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a sucker for carbon fiber, so how could I not back this? The body of the InTuition pen is made from “carbon twill fiber tubing,” so it’s lightweight and cool looking. In normal light, the pattern is very subtle…

Carbon fiber

While in brighter light, the twill really pops…

Carbon fiber twill

The metal parts are made from titanium, so they look great and will hold up under rigorous use. Let’s take a little pen tour…

Uncapped InTuition
Uncapped

The pen takes the beloved Pilot Hi-Tec-C refill, which means that you’re able to swap in your favorite tip sizes and ink colors. I’m using a black 0.5 mm refill, but may kick up my heels at some point and go for something wacky…like blue. Or brown. Or green.

The two o-rings that you see on this end of pen provide just the right amount of grip, while also ensuring that the slip cap fits snugly. The fit is just awesome.

Wacom stylus
Sweet stylus

On the other end of the pen is a Wacom Bamboo stylus nib, which is commonly available to allow for easy replacement, should the need arise. I’ve used the stylus on my iPhone and and iPad and am very happy with the performance. I still think that the stylus on the Solid Titanium Pen is stylus #1, but this one is VERY close. A single o-ring on this end of the pen keeps the cap in place when posted. A titanium fitting simply unscrews to expose the tip for replacement.

Replaceable stylus
Replaceable stylus nib

Here are a few specific details, straight from the Kickstarter project page:
Weighing in at 27 grams (just under 1 ounce), the InTuition measures 5.75″ (146 mm) from the end of the cap to the end of the stylus. Uncapped, the pen measures 5.56″ (141 mm).
The carbon tube body is 0.45″ in diameter, while the cap measures just a bit more at 0.49″.

Posted pen
Posted pen

Stylus
Wacom stylus

The pen feels great in hand, writes like a dream, is American made, and looks industrially cool. So are there ANY negatives? Hmmmmm. Without a clip, the pen does have a tendency to roll, and I’ve lost it off of my desk a couple of times. Don’t get me wrong, I think a clip would ruin the aesthetic, so I don’t miss it at all, but some may consider that an issue.

The biggest problem appears to be availability. Since the Kickstarter project is over, I’m not sure how you would obtain an InTuition as I don’t see them commercially available. Probably your best bet is to contact Tom at e4 Labs, via the Kickstarter page, if you want to get your own.

And you should, because, despite the fact that it can’t make problems or complications disappear, it really is WANDerful.

When Things Go Wrong: The Good, the Meh, the Bad, and the Truly Ridiculous

Sometimes things go wrong. Sometimes things go wrong with PENS. And when things go wrong, some companies leap over tall buildings in a single bound, some gingerly scale small fences, while a few can’t be bothered to get off the couch. Some examples? Don’t mind if I do.

THE GOOD

TWSBI

A wee TWSBI

TWSBI STORY #1: I’m in love with my TWSBI Mini (as you can read here), but soon after I posted my review, blobs of ink would periodically fall onto my paper from the nib. I flushed the pen, re-inked it, to see if that made a difference, but it didn’t. So I emailed TWSBI and received a very quick response from Philip Wang. He was as baffled as I was, but offered to take a look at the pen to see if he could diagnose the problem. Just as I was getting ready to box up the pen for mailing, I noticed an o-ring in my pen case, right near the elastic loop where I keep the Mini. Ah ha! By looking at the schematic drawing that came with the pen, I was able to determine that an o-ring was missing from the piston end of the pen. It obviously came off when I dragged the pen through the case’s elastic loop. Once replaced, no more maddening drips. So the pen wasn’t at fault, but HAD IT BEEN, Philip was prepared to make it right. We exchanged a few emails over the course of a few days trying to sort this out, and the replies were always prompt, courteous, and sincere. I came away from the exchanges an even stronger TWSBI fan. THAT collection is bound to grow.

TWSBI STORY #2: This weekend, my husband and I were looking over past American Express statements for some reason, and when we got to the October 2012 statement, I noticed what appeared to be a duplicate charge for a TWSBI purchase. One charge was via PayPal, while the other appeared to be from TWSBI itself, both for the same amount, on the same day. Being a saver of receipts, I put together an email with documentation, and sent it off (Sunday evening), feeling like a bit of a stooge because I’d just noticed an October 2012 problem in February 2013. (Kick self.) A little before lunch on Monday, I received a PHONE CALL from Philip. He’d investigated and found that there WAS, for some reason, a duplicate charge, which he promised to immediately refund via PayPal. He’d even investigated my previous purchases and found nothing amiss. Who knows why this happened- we’re both baffled- but the whole thing was cleared up quickly and professionally, and WITH A PHONE CALL. FROM A PERSON. Yeah, I’m happy. TWSBI, you made my day.

Faber-Castell

Faber-Castell e-motion Parquet

After I posted the review of my Faber-Castell e-motion, a commenter asked about interchanging nibs between the e-motion and BASIC pens. Hmmmm…I couldn’t answer that, so I contacted Faber-Castell, and received a lightning fast response. (No, they can’t be interchanged.) So many times, an email to a company seems to fall into a black hole, but Faber-Castell reads and responds. QUICKLY reads and responds.

A few weeks later, after I reviewed the Faber-Castell BASIC fountain pen, a commenter complained about an issue he’d been having with a Faber-Castell rollerball:

The issue: I own both the carbon roller, and clicky ball-pen. I wanted to get the fountain, however the roller uses the same rubber-grip screw-into-carbon construction, and over time, the plastic at the base of the threads have cracked and the thread section is holding on, barely.

The response: I’m very sorry to hear that you are experiencing a problem with the pen and I would like to correct the situation for you. Please contact me at consumer@fabercastell.com so that I may assist you in replacing the broken part.
Sincerely,
Renee Lamb
Faber-Castell

Faber-Castell…making it right.

Daly’s Pen Shop

Matte body w/ black nib

When I received this Lamy Safari Charcoal (EF nib) from Daly’s Pen Shop, the blasted thing would not write. I cleaned it and coaxed it with different inks, but couldn’t get anything more than a dry, dry line. I emailed a few photos of the issue to Daly’s, and received a quick offer to replace the pen. Daly’s tested the 2nd pen before mailing it out (smart move). Happy ending. Happy customer.

JetPens

Kaweco AL-Sport

I ordered an EF nib for my Kaweco AL-Sport from JetPens. Once installed, I was disappointed to find that the nib performed horribly; not at all like the buttery smooth EF nib on my Kaweco Liliput. Once again, I emailed a couple of photos showing the inconsistent and dry lines, and by the next day, a new nib unit was on its way to me. Problem solved without breaking a sweat.

Kaweco EF nib

The Goulet Pen Company

I’ve been eyeing a TWSBI Micarta for a LONG time, but have been a little put off by some of the reviews that call it a “dry writer.” Since I’m not, as yet, able to adjust my own pens, I’ve been hesitant to order one. I noted this dilemma in an email to The Goulet Pen Company, and received a quick and helpful response. The folks at Goulet Pen will happily ink up and test a pen prior to shipping to make sure that it flows properly. All it takes is a mention in the comments section of the order form. Good to know.

THE MEH

Levenger

Pilot Prera
I’m a big fan of Levenger products and am knee deep in Circa notebooks, Circa punches, True Writer fountain pens, and even a piece or two of furniture. Their products are strong, but their customer service could stand to kick it up a notch or two. In mid-December, I used a promotional gift card to place an order for a Pilot Prera with free ink, then applied a promotional discount to the bundle (after first checking with Customer Service to verify that the discount could be applied). “Yup, no problem.” Shortly after that, I received a back-order notice. Fine, I’m in no hurry. Sometime in January I started wondering where my pen and ink were, so I checked the order status online and found that the order had been cancelled. Cancelled without notification. Yikes. AND my gift card still showed that it had been debited for the order! Double yikes. I called and spoke to someone who said that they would pass along the issue to “Customer Service” (who was I speaking to?!), and that they’d get back to me. Never happened. So I called again, and reached someone who did all the right things. She started from scratch by re-loading the gift card, then placed the order a second time. Some time after that the Pilot Prera arrived (with free shipping, for my troubles), and it’s a dream. (But that’s another story.) The ink, though, has yet to arrive. After emailing yet again, I was told that the original receipt date has been pushed further into February. And so I’m waiting nearly two months for a bottle of Levenger Cobalt Blue.

I have every confidence that I’ll receive the ink, just as I received the pen, but the problem is that I’ve been doing the bulk of the work in this transaction. I’ve been emailing. I’ve been calling. I’ve been waiting. I have no problem waiting as long as I receive timely communications whenever there’s a change. Maybe it’s a fluke, but this transaction ran off the rails a few times. If I wasn’t such a fan of their products, would I stick around after this falderal? Probably not.

THE BAD

ACME Studio, Inc.

So this happened…

ACME Crayon

Yup…I dropped my precious white ACME Crayon rollerball on a counter at work, and it hit in such a way that the top of the brass crayon “cone” sheared off. Totally my fault. I emailed ACME Studios, explained what happened and sent the picture, hoping that the damaged piece could be replaced (on my dime, obviously). When I didn’t hear a peep, I tweeted the same photo and story to @AcmeStudioInc.

*Crickets*

Nothing irks me more than no response. I’ll take a “sorry, tough luck” response over no response.

And so I remain irked.

THE TRULY RIDICULOUS

[md]-pen on Kickstarter

I’ve backed a number of pen projects on Kickstarter, and have received a number of very cool pens…one WAY ahead of schedule (thank you, David!), but most a few months after the expected ship date. Communication has, at times, been spotty, but in the end, I always wind up with my pen. Until now. No matter how slowly a project has progressed, NOTHING compares to the wild ride the 321 backers of the [md]-pen have taken (myself included). It all started out very normal oh so many months ago, but deteriorated to the point that I’m 99.9% sure that there is no pen. And yet the charade continues. Over the course of the project’s history, there have been tales of manufacturing woes and misunderstandings, an admission that the creator’s profile photo (since taken down) DOES NOT BELONG TO THE CREATOR, tales of computer hacking, stolen images, and stolen ideas, countless lies, no follow-through on promises, and giant gaps between updates.

I can’t even begin to explain the whole saga, but you can read about it here.

Kickstarter projects are not guaranteed. I understand that. If a project fails because of an unforeseen complication, so be it. But to feel defrauded is an ugly feeling. A pretty awful feeling.

Things can and do go wrong, and when they do, companies would be wise to treat these hiccups as opportunities to show their customer service strengths. Happily, a number of my favorite pen companies and vendors do just that. Some certainly have room for improvement, while others simply disappoint.

All of this made me think, as I go throughout my day, how am I treating my “customers” (for no matter what we do, almost all of us are dealing with people who we could call our customers)? Where am I on the scale of TWSBI to ACME? (Let’s ignore that Kickstarter debacle as a true outlier.) Where do I shine, where can I improve, and where do I disappoint? Hmmmmm.

May we all be a little more TWSBI.

———-

Updated to add: Just after posting this, I received an email from Levenger with the tracking number for my ink. IT HAS SHIPPED.

Moods & Options: Solid Titanium Pen + Stylus

Solid Titanium Pen + Stylus
Solid Titanium Pen + Stylus (or Ti, for short)

I regularly prowl Kickstarter for interesting pen projects, and try to get in as early as possible to get an Early Backer Reward. When I saw the write-up and introductory video for the Solid Titanium Pen + Stylus (clunky name, sweet pen) by Chadwick Parker & Joe Huang, a couple of details grabbed me right away. (I just accidentally typed “write away,” which, maybe, is what I SHOULD say.)

#1: Titanium. Titanium through and through- from tip to tail (as long as you don’t count the tip of the refill and the stylus end). I’ll be honest, I didn’t know a whole lot about titanium when I backed this project, but I knew that this pen would be strong and a bit hefty. Which it is. It sure is.

#2: Bead-blasted finishes. I love a matte finish on a pen, so seeing this pen offered in bead-blasted matte black and matte silver, as well as highly polished chrome (potentially too fingerprinty for me), drew me in a little deeper.

#3: “Most refill friendly pen ever!” Once I read that, I knew I was a goner. The number of refills that fit into this pen is as long as your arm (so to speak), and that was truly intriguing to me. I’m a bit of a fickle pen person, and my pen mood swings wildly from day to day, and sometimes, even within a day (or an hour). Knowing that I could swap in a bunch of my favorite refills (from Pilot’s Frixion, G2, and Hi-Tec-C Cavalier gel refills, to the hybrid ink Jetstream, and even a Montblanc Fineliner) meant that one pen body would last through my many pen mood swings.

#4: Bonus–> Stylus! I’m on some sort of iDevice a million times a day and having a great stylus sounded awesome, if only as a way to cut down on smudgy, fingerprinty screens. And if I could use it to draw and jot “handwritten” digital notes on my iPhone and iPad, all the better.

So I backed the project, and waited a few months while Chadwick & Joe updated us throughout the entire pen manufacturing process. Their dedication and unwillingness to settle for anything but a superior product became evident as they documented their progress and even fessed up to the occasional hiccup. The project was delayed a bit when they noticed that caps and bodies bead-blasted in different machines were not perfectly color-matched, which caused them to refine the process to correct the problem. “Good enough” is not good enough for this team.

So the pen arrived a little bit late, but who cares? The Solid Titanium Pen + Stylus delivers, which is all that matters.

The pen came loaded with a Pilot G2 0.5 mm refill, but I swapped in a Pilot Hi-Tec-C Cavalier 0.4 mm refill and wrote away. Then I decided I wanted to try a Pilot G2 0.38 mm refill, and that fits perfectly and writes great, too.

Ti G2 0.38 mm refill writing sample
Pilot G2 0.38 mm refill in use

The clip is sturdy (titanium, too!) and just flexible enough to clip the pen to your pocket. I’ve been doing this for weeks without an issue. The branding is super-subtle- just a a small, boxed Ti on the clip.

Ti clip
Ti clip and branding

Here’s a peak at the stylus, which, by the way, is the best stylus that I’ve used to date. Not too squooshy, not too stiff, and very responsive. I love the pen almost as much for the stylus end as I do for the pen end. Should you not WANT a stylus, the stylus can be replaced with a flat end cap, but really, why would you want to do that?!

Stylus
Just right

Here are a couple of shots of the pen posted and unposted…

Posted pen

Unposted

With the cap posted, the pen is WAY too long for me, so I always use it unposted. Not an issue for me, but something to keep in mind.

The “grip” area features three grooves, but quite honestly, I can’t really feel them when I hold the barrel. Personally, I don’t find the barrel to be slippery, but, again, something to consider.

Ti grip area
Ti’s grip

It’s getting late so let’s sum up…

Pros:
Titanium
Hefty! (38 g, when loaded with refill)
Excellent stylus
Choice of finishes…matte AND polished
Wide, wide range of compatible refills
Sturdy clip

Cons:
Very long when posted
Ummm…nothing else, in my opinion.

Want one? Even though the Kickstarter campaign is over, they’re now available at bigidesign (as are the aluminum and pint-sized counterparts). This is not a sponsored post. Chadwick and Joe only know me as Backer # whatever. I’m just really impressed with this pen.

Finally a pen that has as many refill options as I have pen moods. And THAT’S saying something.